Páskar: Easter in Iceland

Easter is here and you are going to need some new Icelandic words to discuss your day off, know when shops are closed, and understand what day you are to appear at your in-law' for the Easter meal.

Now, the whole week before Easter is called Dymbilvika: dymbill + vika. We are not sure what dymbill means but all theories revolve around some kind of clapper*, wrapped in cloth to dampen or tone down the sound of the church bell during this week of fasting. The word dymbill is also known in old Norwegian and Swedish texts as well as in the Shetlands.

Pálmasunnudagur comes first - can you guess what word means? This particular sunday and the Saturday before it are popular days for confirmation in the Lutheran church, a rite of passage for 13 year old kids in Iceland. Maundy Thursday is Skírdagur, the day when Jesus washed his disciples feet. Skír means clean, hence the name. This is when the fasting period ends and Easter holidays start. You should get paid extra on this day if you need to work!

Good Friday - wonder who thought of naming this day Good Friday anyway? This was the day when Christ was crucified, which was indeed a looooong day of suffering. Which is why in Icelandic the day is called föstudagurinn langi, the Long Friday. This is a day of penance, of quiet introspection. In Iceland, everything is closed on this day, except some random shops and services.

Finally comes Easter Sunday, páskasunnudagur. This is probably the day you should be groomed and ready for lunch at the in-laws‘. Lamb is the dish of the day, most likely. This is also the day Easter eggs are given. Icelandic Easter eggs, páskaegg, are pretty much all chocolate. Easter eggs all contain "words of wisdom" on a tiny piece of paper, called málsháttur. Some of these málshættir (that's the plural form) are old and established, but recent years have seen more and more new ones pop up, some of them much more random than the aforementioned. You'll see! The actual Easter eggs range in size - the higher the number, the bigger the egg (logically). If you get a number 2 Easter egg, you know you are not quite yet a family member. But take heart, you now have a year to move up on the Easter egg scale!

*We had to look it up, so here's the definition, in case you weren't sure about this word either ;) Clapper = the small metal object inside a bell that hits against the bell to make it ring.